Should I Try the 50/20/30 Budget?


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We Asked 8 Real New Yorkers: Is a 50/20/30 Budget Realistic?

My nightly aspirational peruse of Apartment Theory brought to my attention the 50/20/30 budget rule by appealing to my sense of vanity — I’m a real New Yorker, plus I like those curtains and I budget loosely at best but manage to stay on top of my shit without going bankrupt every month.

The 50/20/30 budget is something I’ve never heard of, probably because I stick to my spreadsheet and ignore any “rules” for staying “on budget,” but it makes sense.

Fifty percent of my income should go to rent, bills, and other necessities that have to get paid each month, twenty percent should go to savings and thirty percent is for incidentals like Netflix and plants and food, I guess. I understand that a budget isn’t necessarily something that work very well for freelancers with income that fluctuates monthly, but my base is always the same — I’ve structured my work so that I have roughly the same amount of money coming in every month. With this in mind, I could very easily try this out.

My only form of “budgeting” is the tested and true method of dividing the amount of money I have in my bank account by the number of days it is until I get paid again. Freelancing means that I have to be my own payroll. I move money from one place to the other for taxes and bills, shovel some to savings, and then sit with a medium-sized chunk of change for the month. Perhaps I could be optimizing my money better? Maybe I should be saving more than the 25 percent for taxes plus a little extra.

Right now I make around $6,500 per month before taxes; after I’ve moved my money around to where it needs to go for rent, bills, and taxes, I’m left with around $3,300. I know that I never hit zero before a paycheck because I would have a nervous breakdown if I did, so I’m not spending all of that money at once. If I moved a little more into my savings, I’d probably be fine. But still, might be nice to check for sure, right?

I don’t strictly budget in part because I’m kind of scared of the results. While it would certainly make me more self-aware of how often I stress shop or buy lipstick at Duane Reade when all I need is toilet paper, I don’t know if that’s something I want to face just yet. The way I spend money right now feels fine; I feel very lucky that there’s always enough when I need it. Maybe seeing the exact numbers for everything isn’t necessary at all. Even though I feel like I spend money all the time, I know that I’m actually okay. Sticking to a budget would make me see if that’s true or not. I shouldn’t be afraid of the answer.

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